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MS Program Requirements

The selection of courses is largely governed by individual student interests and needs, in consultation with his/her advisor and /or thesis committee. However, all degree candidates, both Research and Non-Research Thesis are required to complete the following coursework as part of their academic program:

1. 16:115:512 Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, 3 credits - required for the MS degree, with grade of B or better

2. One of the following courses required with a grade of B or better:
16:682:501 Microbial Life, 3 credits
16:681:543 Current Concepts in Immunology, 3 credits
16:681:555 Molecular Virology, 3 credits
16:681:535 Human Genetics, 3 credits

3. Two seminar courses l credit each, with a grade of B or better, are required for the Masters of Science degree. Microbiology and Molecular Genetics seminars are intended to expose the student to the current research literature in the discipline, and to serve as a training ground for oral presentations and critical evaluation of papers. It is recommended that students (1) take seminars in a variety of different topic areas in order to sample different disciplines; and (2) informally audit seminars to gain experience by observing other student presentations, particularly in the early semesters.

(a.) Research Thesis Option:

1. 1. 16:681:701/702 Research in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics - 6 credits
Required courses leading to a research Thesis paper for Masters Candidates.

(b) Non-Research Thesis Option

In place of research courses, students are expected to take 6 additional credits of courses. Only 1 or 2 credits of 16:681:641/642 Independent Study – Library Research Project are allowed towards satisfying the requirements for Non-Research Thesis. These credits must be approved by the Program Director.



1. Candidacy Form: Candidacy forms for the Masters Degree must be submitted to the Program Director one semester prior to the final oral comprehensive exam for admission to candidacy to be considered. Final review of degree eligibility is undertaken by the Director of the Graduate Program who will certify completion of all program requirements.

2a. Research thesis option: A minimum of 30 credits must be earned, 24 credits in coursework and seminars and 6 in research. No more than 12 of the 24 credits can be taken at the 300 or 400 advanced undergraduate level. A maximum of 6 credits of Laboratory Rotation in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics may be applied as part of the coursework requirement for this degree option. A research thesis must be submitted for review by a thesis committee and should demonstrate: (1) familiarity with the research literature in a specific area; (2) understanding of the research methodology of that area; and (3) the ability to organize research results in a coherent and meaningful manner.

2b. Non-research thesis option: A minimum of 30 credits must be earned in courses and seminars (not research). Upon approval by the Program Director, 1 – 2 credits may be Independent Studies (681:641, 642) while the thesis is being written. To fulfill the requirements for this option, the candidate must write a critical review usually consisting of at least 40-60 pages of some subject under the direction of a faculty member and demonstrate a good command of the scientific literature in that specific subject area. Students doing the Non-Research Thesis option may count a combined total of 6 credits from lab rotation and Independent Study toward their degree.

3. Laboratory Rotations are not required, but are recommended for students to find a lab if they want the Thesis option. A rotation is usually done over a period of 7 to 8 weeks but can be extended by mutual consent of the faculty sponsor and student. If students plan on doing two rotations in the Fall, they should register for 4 credits of Lab Rotation. Students are required to provide the Program Office with a rotation form, signed by their rotation advisor, before beginning the rotation. Once a student has chosen a lab to do their thesis research the student may register for Research directly with the permission of their thesis sponsor. At the end of each rotation, the student will submit a laboratory notebook and a short summary to the rotation advisor. A copy of the summary must also be submitted to the Graduate Program Office for the grade to be submitted. Performance will be graded ona pass/fail basis. A limit of 6 rotation credits can be counted towards the MS degree.

Rotation Information:

1. Each Rotation = 2 credits

2. Rotations are graded Pass/Fail

3. Rotation Dates:
(Fall) Rotation 1 (1st 8 weeks) (check dates with instructor)Rotation 2 (2nd 8 weeks) (check dates with instructor)
(Spring) Rotation 3 (3rd 8 weeks) (check dates with instructor) Rotation 4 – (2nd 8 weeks) (check dates with instructor)

4. Lab Rotation Course # for registration can be found in the schedule of classes under the 16:681 Microbiology & Molecular Genetics program listing.

5. Final Committee: A Master of Science committee, 3 Program faculty members, will evaluate the research or non-research thesis and administer a final oral comprehensive examination, covering the thesis and general subject matter. (See also the section headed General Academic Guidelines). Note: A student must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.00 or better to take the final oral examination.


Research Thesis Committee:

Each Committee must consist of at least 3 members or associate members of the student’s program. One non-program member is permitted, but only by special request of the Program Director.

Non-Research Thesis Committee:

Examination committees consist of 3 faculty members from within the student’s graduate program. Outside members are allowed, but these are in addition to the 3 program members; no substitutes for the 3 are permitted.

Final Requirements:

The following items must be presented to the Director in order for the candidate to be granted the Master of Science degree:

Signed Thesis Title Page
Thesis Abstract
Application for MS Degree Form signed by thesis committee members
Completed MMG Exit Survey (available in the MMG Graduate Program Office, Nelson Lab, Room A202, or click on link below) (Note, this is in addition to the Exit Survey required by the Graduate School)
Required Paperwork


1. Academic Standards: A student is required to earn a B grade or better in the required courses described above. Students must earn a 3.00 grade point average as a condition for being permitted to take the final examination for the Masters degree. This same requirement applies to a change from non-matriculated to matriculated status.

2.Termination: Students failing to achieve these grade point averages for two consecutive semesters will be requested to leave the Program. The procedure for termination is as follows: When a student’s grade point average falls below the required level, he/she (and the student’s advisor) will receive a letter of warning. Students will be expected to remedy their deficiencies in the next semester. Should the student not improve in the next semester, he/she will be requested to leave the Program. A notice of termination will be sent to the Dean of the Graduate School – New Brunswick.

Note: The general academic status of the student is monitored by the student’s advisor and also the Student Affairs and Standards Committee. It is essential that the student’s advisor make sure that each student maintains good progress toward his/her degree.

3. Final Examination for Master of Science Candidates: Students who fail the final oral exam for the Masters degrees are permitted to request a second examination be administered. Further examinations are prohibited in the event the student fails twice. Appeals should be directed to the Student Affairs and Standards Committee.

4.Transfer of Credits: The transfer of up to 12 credits from another institution is allowable. A student wanting to transfer credit should present a written rationale and justification for each course requested for transfer to the Program Director along with the appropriate form. Justification should include academic need and relevance of each course, evidence of academic level (text used, examination questions), and an indication of the equivalency to existing programs courses. It is strongly recommended that students seeking to transfer credits first submit a draft of the justification statement to their advisor prior to its submission to the Student Affairs and Standards Committee. A student must take a minimum of 12 credits of matriculated graduate work in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Graduate Program before application for transfer can be considered.

5. Transcript Problems: All unresolved problems with a student’s transcript must be corrected prior to admission to candidacy. Students may be required to submit an updated transcript copy prior to final candidacy form review.

6. Registration Requirement: All students are required to maintain continuous registration until the completion of the final degree. A minimum registration of 1 credit is required for Ph.D. candidates and M.S. thesis option candidates; M.S. non-thesis option candidates may register for matriculation continued with the approval of the Director. Contact the Program office for exceptions to this registration requirement.

7. Language Requirement: There is no language requirement but one may be recommended at the discretion of the student’s major professor and committee.

8. Time Requirement: The M.S. degree should normally be completed in less than 3 years full-time.

9. Residency Requirement: There is no residency requirement for M.S. candidates. Ph.D. candidates must satisfy a one year requirement. (See Doctor of Philosophy Degree Candidate Requirements).

10. Guidelines for Transfer to the Ph.D. Program: M. S. students who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. should consult with the Director with regard to the guidelines for transfer. To be considered for the Ph.D. track the student should 1) have completed at least 12 credits of Core PhD courses or equivalent at Rutgers/UMDNJ. 2) provide evidence of excellent academic potential – usually a 3.0 GPA or better, and 3) obtain a letter from a faculty member addressing the applicant’s research potential and agreeing to support the student for their Ph.D. research. Students who qualify and are approved for transfer must then take and pass the written Ph.D. qualifying examination given in June.


Contact Us

Division of Life Sciences Graduate Program Office
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Nelson Lab-604 Allison Rd
Piscataway, NJ 08854
Phone: 848.445.9517